Japanese Red Army member Tsutomu Shirosaki deported to Japan, arrested at Narita Airport

Ageing Japanese Red Army activist Tsutomu Shirosaki (67) has returned to Japan — to be promptly arrested at Narita Airport.

A Sekigun-ha activist arrested for his part in a bank robbery in 1971, Shirosaki left Japan in 1977 when the JRA hijacked JAL Flight 472 in September that year. Shirosaki was one of several convicted radicals freed extralegally by the Japanese government to secure the release of the hijacked passengers.

tsutomu shirosaki deported japan narita arrested

In 1986 the embassies of Japan and the United States in Jakarta were hit by homemade mortar rockets. The Jakarta attacks were one of a string of incidents in the 1980s linked inconclusively to the JRA. In contrast to its high-profile hijackings in the 1970s, the JRA never claimed any responsibility for these attacks in Europe and Asia, though it is suspected some of its members were associated with them, possibly in collaboration with other groups. The Jakarta attacks, which also targeted the Canadian Embassy in a car bomb, were claimed by the Anti-Imperialist International Brigades in response to the G7 Summit taking place in Tokyo that year.

It was alleged that Shirosaki’s fingerprints were found in a hotel room in Jakarta, though in theory the JRA was still based in the Middle East at the time. It is worth remembering, though, that the radicals the JRA got released through its hijackings were not all of the same ilk and some had difficulty adjusting to their new lives within the group. It has been suggested that Shirosaki apparently did not consider himself a formal member of the Japanese Red Army at all.

This is how the younger Shirosaki appeared in wanted posters.

shirosaki tsutomu japanese red army hijack jakarta

He was ultimately found in Nepal in 1996 and handed over to the Americans, who extradited him to stand trial for the 1986 Jakarta attack. Released early from his prison term for good behaviour in January, he has now been deported back to Japan and promptly arrested again this afternoon at Narita for attempted murder and arson. He will almost certainly die in prison.

WILLIAM ANDREWS

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